Seniors, hurry, Part D deadline nearsWhat I find to be particularly infuriating about that paragraph is the implication that companies “competed” for seniors by offering lower drug costs, when in reality Medicare is forbidden from negotiating lower drug costs as a result of the Repugs’ 2003 scam legislation, as noted here. Since it’s impossible to cut prices, I wonder how they attracted seniors to their plans (and as far as I’m concerned, the notion of “competition” as described by Breaux is a myth.)
By John Breaux
Amid a lot of political noise, the Medicare prescription drug program is entering its second year, and it already can boast astonishing success. Seniors are looking beyond the political rhetoric and finding that the benefits of the program are substantial.
People in the program are saving an average of $1,200 annually in prescription costs, according to the Medicare agency. Competition has driven down costs. When the law was passed in 2003, government officials at first projected that the average monthly premium would be $37. Instead, when dozens of companies began competing with each other to attract seniors to their plans, the average premium went down to $24. That's nearly a 35 percent savings from original predictions.
And to think, the author of this column was once a Democrat.
Amazingly enough, the savings will be just as good for 2007. Defying inflation, the average premium nationwide for 2007 will remain at the same low $24 per month. Meanwhile, the 10-year estimate for the cost to the government has dropped a whopping 20 percent, or $180 billion.I don’t care about “the 10-year estimate,” since that will have to be revised, hopefully, after the Democrats fix this mess. Besides, the premium amount is irrelevant if a plan participant falls into the aforementioned “donut hole,” as most did last September, because you’re paying for the cost of your drugs on top of your premium anyway, as noted here (from the link above):
Under Part D, Jose M. Flores, a 66-year-old school bus mechanic from La Joya, Texas paid $40 for each month’s supply of Bvetta, an injectable medicine for diabetes, and $20 for Plavix, a blood thinner used to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. But when he went to get his next month’s supply in May, he was dismayed to find he owed $167.56 for the Bvetta, and $1,129.62 for the Plavix. “It’s almost useless,” said Mr. Flores, “I’m paying the premium, but not getting protection.”Back to Breaux...
Furthermore, Part D is providing beneficiaries access to a wide range of necessary medicines. In 2007, plans will cover an average of 4,300 prescription medicines, a 13 percent increase over the average number of medicines covered in 2006.So what? It’s supposed to do that anyway. Besides, with all of the tax breaks that the pharma industry gets, they should at least be providing newer and better medicines instead of spending more money on marketing and lobbyists.
It is for all of these reasons that Part D is so popular. In fact, at least four respected, independent national polls have found that about 80 percent of beneficiaries are happy with Medicare Part D. What better measure of success than the endorsement of those who use it?I don’t know what Breaux is talking about here; I tried to find any reference to the polls he mentions, but I couldn’t locate anything (and of course, it would have been nice if he’d named which polling services had been involved, but people who have something to hide aren’t usually very clear about stuff like this).
For decades, government had designed, for the sake of simplicity, most of its benefits to be one-size-fits-all.True, if by that you mean that the federal government was able to represent itself as one entity against the pharma industry and make THEM provide the lowest price for drugs, as opposed to creating a boondoggle that left that up to each plan participant, who of course doesn’t have anything like that kind of leverage acting alone against the drugmakers.
But when we in Congress were working to create the Medicare prescription drug program, we were sensitive to the reality that individuals have unique health-care needs.Spare me.
So we came up with a program that offers flexibility. Seniors have a wide variety of plans from which to choose. They can select another plan if they don't like the one they're in. And they can choose whether to sign up for the prescription drug benefit in the first place. That very ability to choose is the strength and even the genius of Part D.You can say that about the Medicare program when it was originally signed into law in 1965 by President Johnson. Of course, you bastards have done just about everything you can to ruin it – no “genius” in that.
Seniors have until Dec. 31 to sign up for the first time or to change plans. Medicare recommends acting as soon as possible to avoid any inconvenience at the pharmacy counter next month. Those who want to stay in the plan they're in now don't have to do anything, and their coverage will continue as before.Sounds to me, based on that statement and even the headline of this column, like our pharma friends are trying to create a scare and get as many people as possible to enroll by the end of the year to pad their numbers.
Seniors can take advantage of the open enrollment now under way with confidence that the one-year-old Medicare prescription drug program has an excellent track record and that it has been endorsed by the people who have used it. The benefit's success proves that seniors know how to relegate political rhetoric to background noise.Oh, and speaking of “political background noise,” former Senator Breaux, can you please explain to me why your former colleague Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has told Harry Reid, the leader of the presumptive incoming Democratic Senate majority (“presumptive” is a key word here – more in a minute), that he’s opposed to allowing Medicare participants the right to negotiate their drug prices? If this is supposed to be such a wonderful plan, why can’t Part D participants have the same right to negotiate prices as the VA?
(OK, regarding the “presumptive” thing – as noted here, South Dakota Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson suffered a stroke today; first and foremost, our prayers and best wishes go out to Sen. Johnson and his family, but a very important secondary concern is that, if Johnson has to step down, that state’s Repug governor Mike Rounds, the guy chiefly responsible for that horrible abortion law, will name a Repug to serve in the Senate in Johnson’s place, making the Dem-Repug count 50-50 again and – you guessed it – return control of the Senate to the Republicans with "Billion Dollar Cheney" as the tiebreaker…ugh.)
Update 12/14: CNN is reporting that Johnson did not suffer a heart attack or stroke.